Since the early 1970s, we have worked hard to include students with disabilities in the mainstream classroom, to exercise and enjoy, as they are able, their right to a free public education. Their presence teaches us all a bit about our humanity, how we can help others and share the bounties of this democracy.
If teachers are to be evaluated on standardized test scores, and that test data is not adjusted for the particular students in a teacher’s room, then that teacher will be punished and discriminated against, even though the students may have accomplished academic miracles relative to their own abilities.
We do not expect students in wheelchairs to get up and run laps in physical education, and we do not hold the PE teacher accountable for clocking that student’s speed. We expect all students to exercise. We expect all students to learn. But to hold all students and all teachers to the same measure doesn’t always make sense.
I fear that students with differences will soon, again, face the discrimination and feelings that they are not wanted in the classroom, because their scores may bring down the class average, negatively impacting the teacher’s evaluation criteria.
As a society, we have come a long way toward including all students in the educational process. Shame on us all if we do anything to reverse that.